What we did on our summer vacation
July 31, 2007
We had a goal that we'd get the July newsletter written and posted no later than the end of today, and by golly it looks like we'll juuuuust make it. Call it late if you want to and we wouldn't blame you if you did, because you are probably used to reading these well before the final day of the month but it is still technically July until ... well, until we decide it isn't. So there. And besides, we have a good excuse: We were on vacation.
A summer vacation.
It's been a while since we've taken one of those, usually happy to do our traveling in the spring or fall when the weather is cooler and the crowds are thinner. So when the idea began percolating a couple years ago that we wanted to get out to the East Coast for a couple of weeks to introduce Ben to the history surrounding America's independence and formative years, one thing led to another and we somehow settled on July to book our air travel and see the sights. What could be more American than celebrating the Fourth of July in Washington, D.C., or Philadelphia? That was what we were hoping.
Things didn't work out quite that way, despite all the planning we did. Yes, we saw parts of at least 13 states over the course of 16 days, including four major cities and a host of smaller ones. We saw all the monuments and museums and iconic buildings you're supposed to see when you go to those places. But we threw in some sidetrips we hadn't intended that turned our East Coast trip into a combo East Coast and New England odyssey. We managed to work in family visits and a day at a NASCAR race that added spice to the itinerary, but left us little time to relax as we traveled more than 2,000 miles in our quest to see and do as much as we could in the two weeks, because who knows if or when we'll ever get back there?
Not to complain too much; we had a great time. Saw and did more on this trip than we sometimes do in an entire year at home. And we documented all of it. We documented so much, in fact, that boiling it all down into something presentable online took more time than the trip itself, which explains why this is going up now and not a couple of weeks ago.
In June we bought a camcorder and five Mini-DV tapes specifically for this trip. We filled them all. We brought our Canon S3 digital camera with a pair of 2GB memory cards, and Ben took along our old Olympus digital. We brought along our trusty iBook and a 128GB external hard drive to store everything on. We didn't need nearly that much space, but we did manage to use about 16GB for the photos alone, shooting in some cases up to 4GB a day. That's a ton of photos, video and audio. We'd love to make it all available to you to see, but the editor in us says that would probably be a bad idea not to mention costly in terms of bandwidth. So below we present links to the heavily distilled version.
As in the past, Glenn kept a pretty extensive travelogue that makes up the bulk of the presentation. There are roughly 27,000 words and 300 images. Just click on the links to take you to areas you may want to read more about.
We have other non-vacation activities to share, but we'll sit on those for a few weeks until the August newsletter.
The Gehlke Family 2007 East Coast Vacation Travelogue
Day 1: Oakley to Philadelphia We rise at 2 o'clock in the morning to catch our early flight out of Sacramento, with a stopover in Salt Lake City before arriving at Philadelphia International Airport around 4:30 in the afternoon. We wrestle with the baggage claim line, then lose two hours waiting for our car at the rental place before spending more than an hour driving aimlessly around Philly in search of a hotel that should have been three miles away.
Day 2: Philadelphia to Mystic, Conn. We brave the New Jersey Turnpike to reach the ferry terminal in time for a tour of the Statue of Liberty. There is so much haze that we can barely see New York City. The weather turns nasty in the afternoon and causes us to drive through New York amid a partial blackout and a major traffic jam that has things backed up into Connecticut. We visit a state park on the Connecticut shoreline to ride out the traffic before limping into Mystic at 9:30. We are settling into our room when a fire alarm forces the evacuation of the entire hotel for an hour.
Day 3: Mystic to Fall River, Mass. What looks like a short drive on the map turns into a long sightseeing tour of lighthouses along the Connecticut and Rhode Island coast. We get lost in Watch Hill, R.I., and discover a quaint business district where we buy ice cream. At Point Judith near Narragansett, R.I., we get some great seafood from a popular chowder stand called Iggy's. A late afternoon thunder shower creates for awful driving through Providence, then we get lost in Fall River while searching for our hotel.
Day 4: Fall River to Lowell, Mass We pay a visit to the home of Glenn's Uncle Dave in Berkley, then head for Cape Cod via New Bedford, where we stop at the Civil War-era Fort Taber. We eat lunch in the town of Sandwich, then stop in nearby Plymouth to see the famous Plymouth Rock. Finally, it's through Boston at sundown and on into Lowell, where we again manage to lose our way to the hotel.
Day 5: A visit to Boston We walk the Freedom Trail and check out such attractions as the Quincy Market, Faneuil Hall, the Old State House, Boston Common, Bunker Hill, and the downtown farmers market.
Day 6: New Hampshire International Speedway We celebrate Glenn's birthday by leaving our hotel early in the morning to travel 60 miles so we can hang out with 100,000 NASCAR fans at the Lenox Industrial Tools 300. We see pre-race appearances by several of the big drivers and load ourselves down with souvenirs. Anxious about the stormy skies above, we watch as Jeff Gordon loses a close finish to Denny Hamlin, then we sit trapped in the parking lot for more than an hour, returning to the hotel at 10 p.m.
Day 7: Lowell to Newark, N.J. We head west across Massachusetts' famous Mohawk Trail, stopping at several small towns in search of garden art and postcards. We turn north into Vermont, then continue on into New York. We pick up the New York Thruway (turnpike) outside Albany and continue on to Newark, arriving after dark at our hotel located across from the Newark International Airport.
Day 8: A tour of New York City We drop off the rental car at a parking lot and take the train from Penn Station into New York. There, we purchase tickets for Gray Lines bus tour of the city and see everything from the Empire State Building to Wall Street to Ground Zero. We have lunch at Rockefeller Center and then visit Nintendo World for Ben. We buy cheese cake from a deli, snap photos in Times Square, tour M&M's World, then catch the train back to New Jersey. We order a "real" New York pizza from a Newark takeout place.
Day 9: Newark to King Of Prussia, Penn. A short drive gets us to King Of Prussia just in time to make the Revolutionary War soldier demonstration at Valley Forge. The rain pours down as we see a musket and cannon firing demonstration. We eat dinner at the mall, then check into our hotel where it rains so hard that the water comes off the roof in heavy sheets. There are fireworks for the Fourth of July, but it pours all night and no one wants to brave the weather to go look for them.
Day 10: A visit to Sewell, N.J. We spend the day with Glenn's grandparents, going to lunch at an Amish market in town and then reminiscing at their house. Ben explores the woods and the basement. Glenn takes many, many photos. We stay for dinner, then it's back to King Of Prussia for more rain.
Day 11: King Of Prussia to Washington, D.C. We take a roundabout trip to the nation's capital, heading first through Pennsylvania Dutch country and stopping for lunch at an Amish market in Intercourse. We shop for barn stars at a craft shop. We visit the Hans Herr House in Willow Street, Penn., then continue on the D.C. via Baltimore. Our hotel is located just a couple blocks off the Capitol Mall.
Day 12: Touring Washington Starting at 10 a.m., we walk past the Air & Space Museum to the Capitol. Then we head west to the Washington Monument through a Folklife Festival taking place on the mall. We eat lunch at the Smithsonian Castle, then return to the Capitol for a 2:50 p.m. tour. We learn about the artwork inside the rotunda. We walk through the U.S. Botanic Garden, then crash in the hotel room for the rest of the day.
Day 13: Touring Washington some more We start the day visiting the Smithsonian Air & Space Museum, then we walk to the White House where we are kicked out by park police ahead of the arrival of President Bush. We walk to the World War II Memorial, then it is west some more to see the Lincoln Memorial and the Vietnam Wall. Exhausted from the long walk and the heat, we catch a bus back to the National Archives to see the original Constitution and Declaration of Independence. Then it is back to the hotel to rest our aching feet.
Day 14: Washington, D.C. to West Deptford, N.J. We rise early for a scheduled 10 a.m. tour of the Washington Monument, which gives us a breathtaking view of the city. Then we check out of our hotel and drive to the Jefferson Memorial and Arlington National Cemetery. Low on fuel, we sweat out the miles until we find a gas station. Heading the wrong direction as usual, we follow I-95 south to Alexandria, Va. Then we backtrack through Maryland and into Delaware, checking out the race track in Dover before crossing into New Jersey and arriving at our hotel. We are the only ones in the restaurant for dinner.
Day 15: A visit to Philadelphia Glenn comes down with a cold, but it doesn't deter us from getting an early start so we can get tour tickets to Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell. At the visitor center, Ben learns about a Continental Army reenactment that he wants to get involved with. We see Ben Franklin's grave. Ben (our Ben) is conscripted for military duty. (You simply MUST see this.) We tour the U.S. Mint, walk down Elfreth's Alley, then take a very roundabout drive in rush hour traffic to see the Rocky Balboa statue at the Philadelphia Art Museum.
Day 16: West Deptford to Oakley Our vacation ends with a delayed departure from Philadelphia when severe weather plays havoc in Atlanta. We have a brief layover in Atlanta before catching our connecting flight to Sacramento. We forget where we left the car, and Glenn almost forgets where he left his car keys. The house is still there and the cats are still alive when we return home at 10 p.m.
Thanks for reading, as always. We'll be back in August.